Dating App False Ad Class Action Against Bumble Shifts to Arbitration

Nine months after a putative class action was filed against dating app Bumble, a Northern District of California court has agreed to move the app user’s false advertising case to arbitration. The opinion issued late last week upheld the company’s electronic click-wrap agreement, which also allows users to opt out.

The court explained that Bumble operates a popular online dating, friendship, and professional networking app on which users can create a profile with photos and information about themselves. The app launched in 2014 and has over 1 million paying users, the opinion noted.

As previously reported, a California man sued the company over two paid-for features that he claimed Bumble exaggerated. Specifically, the complaint said that SuperSwipes and Spotlight, which according to Bumble, increase the likelihood of matching with another user by “up to 10x” were falsely advertised. After purchasing both features, the plaintiff asserted he experienced no discernible increase.

The suit stated consumer protection and fraud-based claims for Bumble’s alleged misconduct. The company moved to dismiss on the merits, then a day later, filed a motion to compel arbitration, urging the court to take up the latter motion first.

In last week’s opinion, Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton tackled that question, summarizing that the “overarching dispute in this motion is whether the plaintiff agreed to arbitrate.” In the first of two steps, the court said that Bumble’s two online presentations of its terms of use were an effective agreement.

The court also ratified Bumble’s “Blocker Card” agreement, a type of clickwrap contract. In addition, Judge Hamilton found that Bumble made a sufficient tri-fold showing that the plaintiff used unique credentials to access the app, “that his access and use of the app on that date was a demonstrable consequence of his assent to the updated Terms because he only could have done so by clicking through the Blocker Card, and that the timeline of events indicates that plaintiff clicked his assent to the updated Terms.”

The opinion also overrode unconscionability contentions on part of the plaintiff. Pointing to  Bumble’s arbitration agreement and delegation provisions, the court underscored the company’s agreement to reimburse arbitration expenses up to $10,000 and permit arbitration by phone or written submissions wherever the claimant resides, while noting that claimants can obtain the same monetary and non-monetary relief on an individual basis that would be available in court.

“Defendants are correct that unconscionability challenges have failed on terms even less favorable to consumers,” the court opined, staying the case pending resolution of the plaintiff’s claims.

The plaintiff and putative class are represented by Edge, A Professional Law Corporation and Capstone Law APC. Bumble is represented by Cooley LLP.